Although service in the armed forces is generally associated with good health, there has been increasing research and media attention on service-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other mental disorder, including mild traumatic brain injury and links to alcohol abuse, homelessness and crime.
In addition, more servicemen survive injuries that would have caused death years ago, due to advances in military health services. Therefore, the physical needs of those people surviving injuries during military conflict present significant challenges for health and social care services during recovery, before they return to service, or adapt to civilian life if medically discharged.
The North East provides a disproportionately high number of recruits to the armed forces, many of whom will return to settle in the area upon discharge.
- advances in military medicine mean that more of the ex-service community may be returning to civilian life with complex and long term needs, which require significant levels of expertise and financial resource to meet
- there is a strong body of evidence to indicate that the ex-service community have worse health outcomes than the general population
- the transition for those leaving the forces, into the civilian NHS is patchy and variable in its effectiveness; the link between defence medical services and the local NHS needs to be much tighter and more systematic
- earlier intervention from other civilian services, such as Job Centre Plus and housing would also facilitate a smoother transition for ex-servicemen
- better information about size, geographical spread, age profile, employment status and health and social needs of the ex-service community in Northumberland is required to support the planning and commissioning of services; this information gap applies to the whole of the North East of England
The Royal British Legion (RBL 2006) has published figures which indicate the following:
- There are an estimated 4.8 million veterans in the UK and 5.37 dependents.
- 84% veterans are men.
- veterans over 85 years will increase significantly over the next decade.
- 60% of the adult ex-service community are aged over 65, this compares to 20% of the general adult population
- 31% of the ex-service community live alone compared to 19% of UK adults
- Younger members of the ex-service community are more prevalent in the North of the UK
- Based on the national profile, North East England has an estimated 200,000 veterans and 400,000 in the veteran community, a significant presence of ex-servicemen in North East England
The 2011 Census
- 1,258 people in Northumberland are employed in the armed forces (this represents 22% of the North East Armed Forces population).
- Of these, 956 people live in households (18% of North East armed forces personnel in households) and 302 people are in communal establishments.
- The number of people in communal establishments represents a high proportion (87%) of North East armed forces personnel living in communal establishments.